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Motion to Reflect: 2012 Model UN Summer Institute Session 1 Recap

As temperatures rose in New England last week, 44 middle and high school students convened in the air conditioned classrooms of the Harvard Business School for a week of intensive global diplomacy training at the UNA-GB’s Model United Nations Summer Institute.  These budding global leaders chose to trade in traditional camp activities like archery, swimming and horse-back riding in order to debate, negotiate, and create resolutions to the world’s most pressing issues, honing the skills they will need as global citizens and leaders in the 21st century.

The students kicked off the week with ice breakers and activities geared towards understanding the UN and learning about the complexities of human rights law.  These activities taught the students effective debate skills, such as listening to each other and learning to respect and draw attention from the other delegates during the simulations. Throughout the week, students were introduced to international relations and critical 21st century skills like negotiation, public speaking and problem-solving through the lens of Model United Nations curriculum and simulations focused on terrorism and Human Rights. They had the unique opportunity to learn about the UN’s parliamentary procedure, formal debate vocabulary and how to complete high-level research through actual simulated debate and role play.

For the full simulation on Friday, the students teamed up in pairs to represent a UN member state in the General Assembly, allowing them the unique opportunity to step into the shoes of UN delegates and present their country’s position on conflict diamonds.  This involved significant group work and alliance building among countries in order to come up with possible solutions. These solutions were translated into UN resolutions that were then debated and voted on by all countries. 

In order to create a resolution, the students had to recognize and understand the complexity of each global issue and they had to take into account the various economic and political implications a resolution would have on different countries. They also had to reach a compromise amid widely conflicting country interests, from Zimbabwe to the UK to China.

The dedication, seriousness and excitement exhibited by the students throughout the week was impressive and inspiring to all staff and adults in attendance.  It was a real treat to see how realistic and impressive the debates were, and how the youth, no matter their age, were cooperative, motivated and committed to crafting feasible resolutions to modern day global challenges of terrorism and conflict diamonds.

We want to thank all of these future global leaders for giving up a week of their summer vacation to tackle the world’s pressing global challenges and to learn critical 21st century skills, all while having fun and building valuable friendships.  We hope to see some familiar faces next summer and at the Model UN programs during the year!

Stay tuned for student testimonies and additional feedback from the second session, to be held from July 9-July 13, serving 45 more young global advocates!

– Julia Kuperminc and Catherine Schrage

UNA-GB’s Mission in Action: Annual Advisory Council Meeting and 2012 MUN Summer Institute Kick-Off

Despite the dreary weather on Monday, UNA-GB launched a fantastic week of programming.  Staff and interns took a field trip to Harvard Business School where the 2012 Model UN Summer Institute’s first session kicked off, with nearly 50 6th-12th grade students from around Boston and the country coming together for an intensive week-long program focused on global diplomacy and leadership.

L-R: UNA-GB ED Lena Granberg, Pam Pelletreau, Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, UNA-GB Board VP Arese Carrington, and UNA-GB Board President Richard Golob.

Across the quad, in Spangler Hall, UNA-GB staff, Advisory Council members, and Board officers gathered for our annual Advisory Council luncheon. This year we were pleased and honored to welcome Ambassador Robert Pelletreau and his wife Pamela as our special guests.

Pelletreau has impressive and timely expertise in the Middle East, having served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs as well as Ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain throughout his 35 year career in the Foreign Service. Upon leaving government, he joined the international law firm of Afridi & Angell , and in 2002, along with his wife, became Co-Director,  of Search for Common Ground in the Middle East. Mrs. Pelletreau was an active volunteer of UNA in New York, and since moving to the Cape this year, has become more involved with UNA-GB.

The luncheon opened with an energizing introduction from UNA-GB President Richard Golob, who spoke enthusiastically about the Advisory Council and their role as ambassadors to the Boston community. Council Member Peter Smith echoed Richard’s comments, describing the crucial role of the Advisory Council as not only spokespeople for UNA-GB overall, but also specifically as avid supporters of our Model UN global education programming.

Ambassador Pelletreau spoke next, giving all those gathered at the table a clear, organized and engaging update on the current status of political changes in the Middle East, while also bringing in charming personal anecdotes; he opened with a story about playing squash with former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. During his remarks, he shared 4 general observations on political uprisings in the last year or so:

Pelletreau stated that a combination of these factors was the catalyst for the uprisings, pointing out that in an increasingly globalized world where news access is everywhere and stories can spread like wildfire, it is harder to cut your citizens off from the rest of the world.  Ambassador Pelletreau gave his take on what the future may look like in this region, and in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria specifically, saying that while much is unclear, fighting is likely to continue.  As a final wrap up to his informed commentary, Pelletreau shared another anecdote, this time about Henry Kissinger’s legendary trip to China in 1971, during which Premier Zhou was asked about the implications of the French Revolution – he replied that it was “too early to say”.  All those in attendance laughed at the irony, and with understanding that issues as complicated as those currently faced in the Arab world will indeed take time.

After a brief time of Q&A, Executive Director Lena Granberg updated the Council on UNA-GB programming so far this year, particularly highlighting the successes of our Model UN program, now serving almost 3,000 6th-12th grade students in the greater Boston area. (To catch up on recent UNA-GB events or upcoming programs visit the website). Ann Kirby, who works on educational development at UNA-GB, gave a brief introduction to the Model UN Summer Institute, which teaches 6th-12th graders the values of debate, teamwork, and public speaking while engaging in simulated negotiations on real-world global challenges.

The Advisory Council members then had a chance to sit in on one of the Institute’s sessions to experience the impact of this transformative college-preparatory program firsthand.  The students were finishing up an exercise through which they established a working definition of human rights for use in their simulations. This was followed up by an engaging and entertaining public speaking exercise where they had to go around the circle, state their name, the names of those before them, and an activity/like they have.  It provided much fodder for discussion about the importance of active listening and ways to remember key facts when speaking.

It was great to see various aspects of UNA-GB come together in one place, and to see our mission come alive through the Summer Institute.  Teens from the Greater Boston Area as well as active community members, professionals, and former ambassadors were all laughing and learning together.  And no amount of torrential rain could dampen the inspiration felt around both the work of the UN and UNA-GB’s work to empower the next generation of global leaders that afternoon!

Wondering how you can join in? Check out how to get involved on our website!

-Jessica P

“What I Did On My Summer Vacation”: Reflections from MUN Summer Campers

One of the inevitable rituals that comes with going back to school is sharing what you did on your summer vacation with your fellow classmates.   Is working towards solving the world’s most pressing global challenges, such as child marriage, immigration, and human rights a common story?

For the 39 rising 8th-12th graders who attended our first ever Model UN Summer Camp, held at Harvard Business School in July, the answer is yes.  We asked a handful of our summer campers to share about their camp experience and how it feels to be working towards becoming the next generation of global advocates.  Learn more about the week here and consider sharing information about next year’s camp with a young person in your life!

*A special thank you goes to our corporate sponsor, National Grid, whose generous support provided 10 scholarships for students to attend the Summer Camp, including some featured below!

Raheem, 11th grade
I am from:
I live in Rosendale, MA; that’s where I was born, but my mom is actually from Singapore. She is from an Arab background, and she grew up there in Singapore.

 I decided to join the Model UN Summer Camp because: I have always been interested in international relations, so this is a great way to learn about some of the current issues today.

What I have learned from this program: I have learned about current issues in different countries such as child marriage, and also the role of peacekeepers in the UN, so doing those simulations really helped me to learn more about those different aspects.

What I liked the most about this program: It is so much more engaging type of learning than just hearing about things on the news, so I really enjoyed it.  I think the public speaking aspect that we focus on a lot really helps a lot.

This program will help me with my future goals: Before this I didn’t think international relations was really up there, but now I may be considering it in the future.  I have not done much public speaking before, so wasn’t really used to it, but such a big part of it was based on public speaking that I think I have gotten much better in it.

I would suggest this program to other students: I think that all sort of kids would like it whether they like to speak out or not, they learn a lot would really broadened their horizons based on politics.

Christina, 11th grade
I am from:
Malden, MA

I decided to join the Model UN Summer Camp because: I came to Model UN Camp to be better at public speaking and further my education in international relations.

What I have learned from this program: I have learned a lot of things I have not known before that I would need to take to the future with me.

I liked the most about this program: How we came from all over the world to the debate and the caucuses, and the different roles there are.

This program will help me with my future goals: In the future I hope to go into maybe something in law, maybe history, so either way Model UN will help me.

 I would suggest this program to other students: Advice that I give is to come prepared and be open. Don’t be shy about it because everyone is at the same position – come and learn and just be ready to do it.

Emily, 8th grade
I am from:
Barcelona, Spain

I decided to join the Model UN Summer Camp because: I have always been interested in international relations.  My school is an international school, so there are lots of kids from all over.  I have always been completely fascinated by the different cultural backgrounds and the way countries interact and politics that unite them.

What I have learned from this program: I will learn more about how to express myself and how to debate…How to argue convincingly from point when I don’t completely agree with that point. The thing about being diplomat is you represent a country and a body of people and that’s very important because not everyone’s voice can be heard at any global situation. I want to learn about different countries and different policies.

What I liked the most about this program: Learning from and hearing about what other people have to say, along with meeting new people.

This program will help me with my future goals: When I am older I would love to be a diplomat. Interactions between people and countries in the world are fascinating, and someday I want to make a positive difference in it.

I would suggest this program to other students: It is important for someone to represent because otherwise those people’s voices won’t be heard.

Eric, 11th grade
I am from:
Westford, MA

I decided to join the Model UN Summer Camp because: This year I am a class president of my club at my high school and I really want to further my knowledge of the UN and learn about its operations and policies as well as that I hope for a career in the UN someday.

What I have learned from this program: My experience at the Model UN UNA-GB Summer Camp was extraordinary.   It [provided] me with experience to become a better public speaker and debater. Some of the nature of the issues, which I would want to deal with, would be the global economy crisis…as well as human rights.

I liked the most about this program: I made a lot of new friends.  I learned how to become a much more effective and efficient delegate in future Model UN Competitions.

This program will help me with my future goals: I want to represent people who typically, normally speak up for themselves and to defend them.  My dream job would be to become a politician either for the United States or to represent the United States in the UN because I care a lot about people.  It has made me want to become even more involved in international politics; I believe it will help me when applying to some colleges.

I would suggest this program to other students: I think it is important for teenagers my age to join this program, so that way they will realize that they are going to be affected by human rights or some other law or other aspect which the UN discusses.

Mikaeal, 8th grade
I am from:
Newton, MA

I decided to join the Model UN Summer Camp because: Because I really did not know about the UN. I thought that I could actually learn how the UN works, what the UN really is, what they really do.  I want to learn more about modern day issues and human rights.

What I have learned from this program: Paying attention is definitely a key part of this camp. It really helps with public speaking.  I learned how to debate. I actually was not really that good in it and I have improved a lot.

What I liked the most about this program: Parliamentary procedures… It was actually my favorite part in the whole class. I had almost no idea when I came here, but now I really understand it.

This program will help me with my future goals: When I joined the camp I thought it will be an interesting thing to know about…I actually don’t know exactly what my career would be, but I think it definitely will help me. It is a very important thing nowadays because all these issues and human rights are a big thing today.

I would suggest this program to other students: It was very accelerating, hard at some points, but I thought it was fun and very educational overall.

Rebecca, 12th grade
I am from:
Malden, MA

 I decided to join the Model UN Summer Camp to: Improve my speaking skills and actually learn to give out my opinions, my suggestions more because before I had a hard time putting out my personal views on certain topics.

 What I have learned from this program: It has been a great experience understanding and learning more and getting to touch up on everything I have learned before.  The Summer Camp has just expanded my level of understanding of how to give out more information about the certain topics that I understand and how to speak to other people sharing my views with others. I learned everything from child marriage to migrant workers and their struggles to basics of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 What I liked the most about this program: [It is] giving me the chance to actually meet with other students from other schools and other countries and cities, which gives me a broader understanding of their different views on different topics being discussed.

This program will help me with my future goals: It changed my life because growing up I always knew I wanted to do something that was bigger than me – something that did not just have to do with me helping myself, but helping others. And the Model UN simulation just gives you the feeling that it is okay to want to get out of the comfort zone, to say I want to go beyond myself, and I want to help others in the process.

I have always wanted to be a pediatrician.  That’s always been in my plan book, but I want to intertwine that with traveling – I want to travel to help those in need, maybe kids in the other parts of the world that cannot get the aid that they need for those specialized areas.

I would suggest this program to other students: This program is amazing because it is actually improving your social capability and your ability to learn and share with others what you learned.  It is a great experience to come to the summer camp because it sharpens your learning abilities and what you know about American history and about the issues in general. It is the beginning, opening the door to helping others, and understanding what the world is made out of.

Daniel, 9th grade
I am from:
Tampa, FL

 I decided to join the Model UN Summer Camp because: I thought it was a great opportunity to come to a beautiful city like Boston and practice and learn some things about Model United Nations that I did not know before.

What I have learned from this program:  I have learned a lot of things about international relations and child rights and human rights that I would have never known if I would have never came to this program.  Mediating with other countries is always the best way to fix things.

What I liked the most about this program: It sets a great platform for your future aspirations to go farther than Model United Nations, and I would suggest it to any Model UN students.

This program will help me with my future goals:  Overall I would like to make the world a better place. There is a lot of turmoil in the world. And it is only one person, but if one person affects three, two people, that is already life well spent.  I am aspiring to go to college at Boston University and go to the international relations school and maybe become an ambassador to another country from the United States. And the prior information that I have learned from this program will surely help to reach that goal.

I would suggest this program to other students: Whether you are experienced or not in the Model United Nations field, you can learn some things that you did not know or if you just completely new to the Model UN, you can learn everything you really need to know.

Stay tuned for more information about upcoming camp opportunities!